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HanbitSoft:  Hellgate London  To Continue As Free-To-Play Title
HanbitSoft: Hellgate London To Continue As Free-To-Play Title
January 26, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

January 26, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC

Although it is slated to stop operating in the West on January 31, multiplayer online title Hellgate: London will continue in unspecified territories as a free-to-play game, according to comments from Korean publisher and developer HanbitSoft.

The announcement comes in spite of a decision by Namco-Bandai, which co-published the game through an agreement with Electronic Arts' EA Partners and still claims to own Western publishing rights, to terminate the game's Western servers.

HanbitSoft has asserted that it owns the IP, engines and source code for the Flagship Studios title worldwide, and will maintain Hellgate: London. HanbitSoft has previously been responsible for the game's Korean operations.

The switch to a free-to-play model was the first official announcement the company has made regarding the fate of the title, which during its lifetime suffered from perceived quality issues, and an insufficient userbase, playing a key role in the closing of Flagship Studios in July 2008.

HanbitSoft also says in an official press statement seen by Gamasutra that future updates for Hellgate: London are in the works, with a focus on "strengthening community features" while maintaining the core gameplay as is.

The next "large-scale" patch, according to HanbitSoft, will be released "soon," and will "combine the two game play modes, unifying the split two communities into one." The company also plans class balance improvements and further distinction between the game's five acts.

The Korea-based firm's official weblog statement is written in English, clearly aiming it at the English-speaking market. However, it is unclear whether the company is formally allowed to operate the game in the U.S. or Europe, thanks to the conflicting Namco Bandai publishing agreement -- or whether it might intend to operate an English language version on foreign servers.

Gamasutra has contacted HanbitSoft for more information and will update the story with more information as it becomes available.

[UPDATE: Added link to HanbitSoft statement, international release clarification sought.]

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Wyatt Epp
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Interesting. I was tempted to get and play it at various points, but it seemed like a steep price for a dungeon-crawler. Maybe it's my time, now...

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Should have always been free.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

bill banche
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I played Hellgate for about a year, and, now I am completely spoiled.

No longer will I ever be able to play the old style EQ1 &2, World of Warcraft, etc which all are similar in that the Player is weak, and all the mobs are powerful.

Real life is a struggle. Games are supposed to be FUN.

In these old style games, it's a struggle, frustrating ALL the time.

I only feel powerful in WoW or EQ when I fight mobs that are so low I get nothing from them.

When Hellgate was first released, it had problems, a lot of which were addressed along the way, and patch 2.0, which was only available on Test server was a HUGE improvement.

It never went Live, due to the financial problems mentioned above.

However, there is a huge following of players who, like me, LOVE Hellgate: London.

In Hellgate: I feel POWERFUL almost all the time. I particularly like the combat! You can learn to dance around (you can dodge bullets) and take on a roomful of 40 mobs, and not die. Don't get me wrong, you still die if you don't use your head.

There is a big difference between EASY and BORING. This game is not EASY, and not BORING.

This is the first game I've played where you can learn to become a Ninja style fighter (MY term, not a class) where you use your developed skills, hand/eye coordination, along with your brain, to manage to defeat overwhelming odds!

Instead of the WoW and EverQuest format of: one mob fairly easy, but take 20 to 30 whacks to kill, TWO mobs a bit hard, same 20 to 30 whacks each, but 3 mobs on you? you are dead.

This is why, in Hellgate: London, I feel invigorated, happy, challenged and powerful almost all the time.

NOT grinding! where you do the same thing over and over, each time needing to have a good group with you that doesn't make mistakes, or you all die.

In EQ2 on my lvl 70 Fury I'm frowning all the time.

In Hellgate, on any of my characters I'm Smiling.

So, I don't know what I'll do when Hellgate dies, since I am completely spoiled.

ibba bernardo
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I was lucky enough to see the game in development and meet both the Flagship and Hannbit people. The concept was solid and the implementation was great the only thing it lacked was solid community elements which I think is integral to all online games now.

Ken Nakai
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Hellgate should never have been sold as an MMO. That was the problem. I tried it but got bored quickly...there wasn't anything compelling for me to play it (disclaimer: I'm not a Diablo fan, though I've played it through).

I think they should've just sold it as a solid SP game and patched up the multiplayer/MMO side based on player feedback.

Aaron Knafla
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The actual market for MMO's isn't big enough to support all the content right now. I don't know why anyone would want to bother competing with WoW right now.

Dedicated players of the genre don't have the time to play many titles at once. Once a game claims a customer, that person is out of the marketplace. Furthermore, the target market is dominated by the classic hardcore gamer demographic. And, getting players to switch can be difficult; because they will abandon all their progress (and friends) on their current chosen game. That's a strong current to swim against.

I wonder if developers are setting themselves up for failure.

bill banche
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Aaron is exactly right. Good and very true points.

I spent 1.5 years in WoW, and I was trapped there.

LOTS of complaints about the game from us all in the game, but we were trapped by our progress, by not wanting to lose our friends.

It's a mistake for gamers and for developers both to think that the WoW format is a winner.

Once gamers get away from it, we see how bad it is.


WoW is well set up for allowing gamers to connect: guilds, pvp are all there to get people to group/guild up and RAID.

Hellgate has none of that. or so little it doesn't matter.

Instead: Hellgate had a game that is FUN to play. hehe.

But, the missing Guild search feature is a big loss to those used to WoW or Everquest.

We want to find our friends! or new ones. :)

So, back to my opening statement: why is the WoW form NOT a winner?

1. It's not actually very much fun. It's WAITING, GRINDING. STRUGGLE.

2. WAITING: for friends to log on, for the RAID to fill up, for the mob to spawn... and on and on.

3. It's GRINDING: running the same area or mobs over and over again to get the loot it MAY drop, or the experience it gives.

3. Constant STRUGGLE, mobs too hard to kill, too easy for player to die, (WEAK PLAYERS, POWERFUL MOBS!) always frowning while playing, cursing the devs, the mobs, the game. NOT happy playing!

I'm hoping players and developers both realize that this format just won't work anymore!

We don't have TIME to wait hours for RAIDS to form and to run the RAIDS! We have a LIFE! kids, or school, or work to do!

We want a game that allows us to FIND friends easily, for guilds, and, for us to FEEL EMPOWERED WHILE PLAYING, CHALLENGED BY OVERWHELMING NUMBERS OF MOBS, instead of one or 2 or three mobs that are almost impossible to kill unless we spend many minutes hacking and slashing or casting to kill these stubborn POWERFUL low level mobs!

We don't want to be WEAK!

LIFE IS A STRUGGLE, we don't want gaming to be the same!

We want gaming to be FUN! almost ALL the time we are playing, not just a brief instant here or there!

(when we FINALLY kill that uber mob, after HOURS of grinding to get to it, and with little or NO reward!!)



Frank Lenk
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Hellgate is one of the most unfairly-overlooked games ever. Reviewers dumped on the "repetitiveness" of the graphics, while ignoring the absolutely amazing depth of play. They also seemed to forget the favorable reception they've extended to endless other games that didn't happen to depend on insanely lavish 3D worlds. (Puzzle Quest comes to mind. The Sims is set in a single, poorly-drawn house. It's apparently okay to emphasize content over visuals in *some* genres... Not that Hellgate didn't look fabulous, within its carefully-chosen limits.)

The pay-for-play idea was interesting, but maybe needed some refinement. On the other hand, the idea of offering frequent expansions online was brilliant; personally, I'd always rather spend money expanding a game I already know I like, than shelling out for an entirely new title that may turn out to be dismal. This is a profit opportunity the games industry too often overlooks.

Let's hope HanbitSoft is allowed to keep Hellgate alive. No game should be killed while it still has a devoted following... certainly not as prematurely as this one.